It's all about the AUR.
In their latest devblog posting CCP announced how micro-transactions will work in Eve Online.
To break it down:
- You pay in AUR for Vanity items (i.e. clothes/accessories for your avatar or that alliance insignia and paint job for your ship)
- AUR can only be bought by redeeming PLEX
- Vanity items can be resold in game after their initial purchase, but only for ISK
"But Mord," you might ask, "Why do we need a new currency? Why can't I simply buy vanity goods directly with ISK and be done with it? And what does this have to do with supercapitals?"
I'm glad you asked that. You're being particularly insightful today. Bear with me, this is going to be a slightly round-about trip.
See, the need to use PLEX to buy AUR creates a new, secondary market for the PLEX.
Up until now, PLEX were reimbursed in place of paying directly for a subscription. A purchased PLEX entered the system and, in theory, didn't leave the system until it was reimbursed for play time or used as a donation.
Now, recall back in January when in The Coming Super Carrier Buff I expressed puzzlement over CCP Greyscale's uncharacteristic concern for Super Carrier pilots in the event their wildly overpowered ships were brought back into balance.
CCP Greyscale seems strangely resistant to the idea of reducing the Super Carriers utility out of apparent concern for the lot of Super Carrier pilots. Simply nerfing Super Carriers, Greyscale said, "imposes a great cost on [Super Carrier] pilots".
Now that's a bit strange.
In imposing nerfs on various ships over the years CCP's policy over the years has been to put the health of the game over the interests of pilots of a class of ship than had gotten out of balance. Investing heavily in any overpowered ship or technology has always been a calculated risk in New Eden, as such ships are routinely targeted by CCP for re-balancing. We are all aware that, unlike Star Trek's Scotty, CCP can change the laws of physics on you.
But, suddenly, crocodile tears are being shed for the poor, poor Super Carrier pilots.
I suggested at the time that there might be a profit motive behind Greyscale's sudden empathy for pilots of a particular ship class. After all, I pointed out, if the ISK needed to finance supercapitals and the expensive modules and implants needed for them are being bought via PLEX, that's money in the bank for CCP. In that case, CCP Greyscale would every reason for keeping Super Carriers and Titans the overpowering, 'must have' ship they remain today.
Some of you, like the Sage of Canada, Kirith Kodachi, correctly pointed out that, in theory, the transaction should be a wash for CCP.
"That nets out to about $700 US worth of Plex purchases to buy a bargain-basement priced Nyx in-game. [...] That, my friends, is money in the bank for CCP assuming those ISK are bought through CCP's Plex program."
But those purchased PLEXes can only be used for paying for someone's game time. Thus that 700 dollars replaced someone else's 700 dollars of subscription fees. The only way CCP makes money is if the PLEX are destroyed.
Now PLEX can be destroyed.
Under CCP's new micro-transactions scheme, a PLEX used for AUR exits the system. It cannot be used to purchase game time.
Mind, even before the AUR, CCP was making money on PLEX purchases. But that was money at the margins; PLEX languishing in the in-game speculation market, or keeping subscribers unable to pay in cash in the game.
With AUR, CCP finally has a true PLEX sink that costs CCP next to nothing. When a PLEX is burned for AUR it exits the game and CCP's balance sheets will reflect it as almost pure profit.
Now, notice in the dev blog announcement that CCP Zulu says they will monitor the PLEX market to make sure it doesn't get out of control. This probably means that CCP intends to inject PLEX into the system if their price gets too high or buy up PLEX if the market gets flooded and the price crashes. This is the sort of mechanism a government might use to control inflation or deflation in a market economy and the sort of move I'd expect Dr. E to push.
This is good for you, because it ensures the price of a PLEX won't go completely out of sight. However, it also ensures you won't get crazy-wild discounts on PLEX either. It is exceptionally good for CCP in either event, because it allows them to maintain the PLEX market at a level that ensures an optimal flow of PLEX purchases.
CCP is a for profit company. When CCP Greyscale suddenly breaks pattern and begins to act out of character, a for profit motive is the likely diagnosis.
Diagnosis confirmed. Cha-ching.